Bulgaria : Anti-torture experts speak out over “persistent failures” in treatment of jailed and detained people

Anti-torture experts say Bulgaria’s authorities have failed to take “decisive action” to follow-up recommendations on improving the country’s treatment of jailed and detained people.

In a statement published today, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) said “the vast majority” of its proposals have been ignored or remain partially implemented.

According to the CPT statement, “a lack of decisive action by the authorities” has led to “a steady deterioration in the situation of persons deprived of their liberty.”

Today’s public declaration was triggered by a CPT visit to Bulgaria during March and April 2014 visit. It confirmed to CPT experts “a persistent failure by the Bulgarian authorities to address certain fundamental shortcomings in the treatment and conditions of detention of persons deprived of their liberty.

“The visit report highlighted a number of long-standing concerns, some of them dating back to the very first periodic visit to Bulgaria in 1995, as regards the phenomenon of ill-treatment (both in the police and the prison context), inter -prisoner violence, prison overcrowding, poor material conditions of detention in IDFs and prisons, inadequate prison health-care services and low custodial staffing levels, as well as concerns related to discipline, segregation and contact with the outside world.”

CPT experts admit their disappointment with the responses of Bulgarian authorities to their concerns.

“The responses of the Bulgarian authorities to the report on the CPT’s 2014 visit and to the letter by which the Committee has informed the authorities of the opening of the procedure set out in Article 10, paragraph 2, of the Convention have, to say the least, not alleviated the CPT’s concerns.

“In particular, the responses were succinct, contained very little new information and failed to address the majority of the Committee’s recommendations, usually merely quoting the existing legislation and/or explaining the lack of action by referring to budgetary constraints.

“Further, most of the information contained in the CPT’s report as concerns ill-treatment and inter-prisoner violence was simply dismissed.

“Regrettably, the findings made during the (2015) visit demonstrate that little or no progress has been achieved in the implementation of key recommendations repeatedly made by the CPT.

Experts conclude their statement by urging Bulgarian authorities to address “fundamental shortcomings in the treatment and conditions of detention of persons deprived of their liberty, despite the specific recommendations repeatedly made by the Committee.

“The CPT is of the view that action in this respect is long overdue and that the approach to the whole issue of deprivation of liberty in Bulgaria should radically change.”

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